If you're anything like me, you've read all the books about pregnancy, labour and birthing. You have attended your pre-natal classes and although nervous, tired and excited, you feel ready for baby's arrival. While your expectations may be that your baby's birth is going to be the hardest bit, most parents will tell you that it is just the beginning!
Sleeping and Feeding
In the early weeks of your baby's life, your baby will mostly sleep, feed and cry. Hopefully there will also be lots of cuddles in there too! While all newborn babies are different, they spend most of their time sleeping when they're not feeding. Typically this will mean your baby will sleep for 2-3 hours, wake and want a feed. Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, this will happen about 8-12 times per day and can add up to several hours feeding each day! You might then have a brief period of wakefulness where you can cuddle and bond, and then your little bundle of joy will usually fall asleep again. This pattern mostly continues 24 hours a day for the first few weeks.
Babies can't tell the difference between day and nighttime and so sometimes will sleep for shorter or longer stretches during the day, or sometimes overnight. Newborn babies sleep for around 16-17 hours per day, which does sound like a lot, but if you are only managing 2 hours sleep at a time, its definitely not easy! Try popping baby in the Cocoonababy for a sleep and then sleep while the baby sleeps!
At about one-three months old, your baby might start to sleep for slightly longer periods overnight. If you're lucky, this will mean only waking up a couple of times per night to feed and resettle.
Baby sleep patterns change regularly, so just when you think you've got the hang of it, things usually change. Just take things as they come, sleep whenever you can and try to stay flexible. Leave the cleaning and washing for another day!
Play time and cuddles!
Taking time to bond, interact and play with your baby is important - even in the first few weeks. Things like singing songs and nursery rhymes, reading books, smiling and talking to your baby as well as baby massage are important for their growth and development. Don't forget to make time for tummy time (even if they don't like it!) and if the weather is nice, put baby in a pram or carrier and go for a walk.
Try to be attentive to your baby and monitor how tired they are - in their first few months they can go from being happy and engaged, to overwhelmed and upset quite quickly. If they do seem upset or tired, it's usually time for a cuddle or rest.
While it can be stressful, remember that it’s normal for newborn babies to cry. When trying to figure out why they are upset, you may have to try a few things before you work it out. Reasons babies often cry include hunger, dirt/wet nappy, too hot or cold or because they want a cuddle. Many babies don't like having their nappy changed and might cry then too.
Remember that the first few weeks of your baby's life, while being extremely happy and exciting, will also be some of your hardest times too. Be kind to yourself and prioritise your own sleep over a clean house or doing the washing. Whether that means going to bed early, or having afternoon naps (or both!), making time for your own sleep is essential. Finally, take help when it is offered - whether that be a meal from a friend, a family member offering to cuddle the baby while you shower, or having someone do a load of washing, it will all help your sanity and mean you have more time to enjoy this special time in both of your lives.